Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 2/18/63 to 2/24/63

Fifty years ago this week,  the state of Georgia first considered a bill to require annual automobile safety inspections to be administered by the Department of Public Safety. The cost for the annual inspection would be capped at $1.25, according to lawmakers.

The cold weather that dominated most of the winter continued to plague Rome: an official low of 6 degrees was reported on Friday morning, February 22nd, while temperatures of zero were measured on Broad Street and -2 in West Rome. Saturday lows rose to a balmy 8 degrees, with Sunday morning's low coming in at 14.

Lots of Chieftains were absent this week in 1963, as Rome City Schools reported extremely high school absenteeism due to a widespread flu outbreak. Both teachers and students were staying home in record numbers, reaching almost 30% absenteeism at its peak; the culprit was believe to be Asian flu.

West Rome's boys played West Fannin on Monday, February 18th, as a part of the Region 3-AA basketball tournament, while West Rome's girls played Cedartown. Alas, the girls were eliminated when they lost to Cedartown51-38. The boys won their game 44-43; the game's outcome was decided when a West Fannin player who was fouled at the final buzzer missed his one-and-one shot. The boys advanced, playing LaFayette on Wednesday, February 20th; alas, that would end their season as LaFayette won 42-31.

The West Rome High School Band Parents Club sponsored a series of "Go Washington" cake sales on February 22nd and 23rd, with the proceeds earmarked to cover some of the costs of the band's upcoming trip to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. The cake sale was held in three locations: in front of Murphy's on Broad Street, in front of Belk-Rhodes on Broad Street, and in front of Enloes in Central Plaza. (Oddly enough, none of those locations are in West Rome!)

Rome's economic growth continued unabated as department store sales reported a 5% increase in December '62-January '63 over the same months a year prior. That put Rome ahead of every other metro area of Georgia other than Atlanta, which beat it with a 6% increase. This news did not go unnoticed by the the Kuhn's discount department store chain, which began negotiating for a Rome location for its Big K Discount Store chain--a location that would eventually find the store directly across the street from West Rome High School, where it remained until Walmart took over the chain and converted it into West Rome's first Walmart.

And to show you how much North Georgia has changed in a half-century, it was announced fifty years ago this week that Rome's own Ledbetter Brothers Construction had won a bid to construct a significant portion of I-285, which was then referred to as "the Atlanta circumferential expressway." I-285 would not be completed until 1969; of course, I-75 would not be completed until even later than that. Many of us undoubtedly remember when US 41 was the only multi-lane north-south route from Rome to Marietta; I-75 wasn't completed between Marietta's North Loop and Cartersville for several more years.

The Shrimp Boat in Central Plaza was advertising a weekday special: a shrimp and fish combination dinner with hugh puppies, tartar sauce, and french fries for only 97¢.  Redfords brought back their chicken breast with two vegetables and bread for only 50¢

Belk's celebrated Washington's Birthday with a storewide sale that included a Magnavox Record Player for $66, a portable sewing machine for $14, and 50%-75% off winter coats. Sterchi's Furniture had a living room suite for $99.95, while Sears offered a 19% table model television for $99 and a 1 horsepower window air conditioner for $122. Enloe's Drug Store offered such esoterica as a harmonica for 77¢, a 2 transistor radio for $4.99, and a two-slice pop-up toaster for $8.88. And Murphy's offered chocolate covered cherries for 44¢ a box, baseball gloves and mitts for $1.87@, and folding lawn chairs for $3.97 each (I think we had to buy a new set of these every year or so--they weren't particularly strong chairs, as I recall, so even if you replaced the nylon webbing, the metal chairs themselves would buckle in one or two seasons).

Kroger had ground beef for 39¢ a pound, 24-ounce cans of chili for 33¢, and Heinz ketchup for 19¢ per bottle. PIggly Wiggly offered sausage for 49¢ a pound, strawberries for 33¢ a pint, and Bush's Beans for 9¢ a can. Big Apple offered the lowest price on ground beef at 33¢ a pound (back then, no one advertised lean-to-fat ratios), the ever-popular "lunch meat" for 19¢ and fruit cocktail for 20¢ a can. Couch's had hot dogs for 39¢ a pound, hoop cheese for 49¢ a pound, and chicken livers for 49¢ a pound. And A&P offered lettuce for 12¢ a head, cube steak for 89¢ a pound, and pork loin roast for 47¢ a pound.

For the first half of the week, Rome moviegoers could choose between Two for the Seesaw at the DeSoto Theater, Marco Polo at the First Avenue Theater, and Advise & Consent at the West Rome Drive-In. The weekend brought Taras Bulba at the First Avenue, and a double feature of Garden of Evil and Broken Lance at the West Rome Drive-In; Two For the Seesaw continued all week long at the DeSoto. (A friend wrote to say, "I've never heard of most of the movies you list each week!" That's not surprising: in the days before VCRS and DVDs and digital downloads, local theaters had a captive audience, and if they could bring them in with less expensive films, that's just what they did. Furthermore, Hollywood was churning out X number of films a year to fill those theaters, and not all of them were gems, by any means!)

What were we listening to this week in 1963? Well, "Hey Paula" by Paul and Paula continued its hold on the first place spot for the third week in a row. Other top ten songs included "Ruby Baby" by Dion (#2); "Walk Like a Man" by the Four Seasons (#3); "Walk Right In" by the Rooftop Singers (#4); "Rhythm of the Rain" by the Cascades (#5); "From a Jack to a King" by Ned Miller (#6); "You're the Reason I'm Living" by Bobby Darin (#7); "Blame It on the Bossa Nova" by Eydie Gorme (#8); "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" by the Miracles (#9); and "Wild Weekend" by the Rebels (#10).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fine Ol' Vinyl

While Susan had an appointment in Buckhead, I took some time to run over to Fantasyland in search of primo vinyl finds. I located a number of records while there, but the three that most interested me were a trio of upscale vinyl collectibles: Seals and Crofts' Summer Breeze on Nautilus SuperDisc, Linda Ronstadt's Simple Dreams on Mobile Fidelity, and Kansas' Point of Know Return on Columbia MasterSound. These are three different upscale collectible vinyl labels that date back to the 1970s/1980s (although Mobile Fidelity is still in business producing upscale vinyl reissues).

All three labels produce their albums via half-speed mastering--that is, the original masters are played back at half speed, which allows maximum information transfer to the vinyl and lets the cutting head take more time to cut each groove, allowing for greater detail and more cutting accuracy. The end result is dramatically improved sound quality, a more lifelike sound quality, and a much richer sound "presence." In addition, there's a less evident "sonic floor" (that background noise you hear during supposed periods of silence that lets you know that you're listening to a record), further emphasizing the richness of the sound.

I have hoped for an opportunity to listen to all three formats for comparison, having heard advocates of each as the superior recording system. Since Fantasyland had perfect copies of all three at very affordable prices, this was the ideal means for me to give it a sonic test.

I've listened to all three albums a couple of times, and I must confess that I felt like the Nautilus SuperDisc did the best job of convincing me I was listening to a musical performance rather than a record. Each instrument was distinctive, resonant, and filled with sonic character; voices were clear, crisp, and individually recognizeable in every harmony; and the songs had both warmth and crispness. Mobile Fidelity's recording was a close second; the only real difference I noticed was a little less sonic separation--that is, I heard the whole song very well, but found it more difficult to listen to each individual instrument or voice without sonic bleedover from other instruments. The Columbia MasterSound was third because it was almost too bright and sharp; the album at times seemed a bit too piercing in its sound, as if it needed a little more tonal balance. I have to admit, though, that this could be the music itself--Kansas has always had a crisp, sometimes harshly bright sound that tended more towards the upper end, and a more nuanced album might lend a different result.

Nevertheless, all three albums have a phenomenal sound, and I'm glad I had the chance to do a sonic comparison. (I know that the only true sonic comparison would involve playing the same album in all three recording formats, but I don't know of any album that was offered from Nautilus, Mobile Fidelity, and Columbia MasterSound, so that may be impossible.)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 2/11/63 to 2/18/63

While early February was marked by a warming trend that brought its own problems, the cold weather wasn't through with Northwest Georgia. On February 11th, a cold front moved through that dropped the temperature 11 degrees in a half-hour period, bringing back sub-freezing temperatures and snow flurries. Temperatures fell into the teens by Tuesday night, with icy roads presenting more of a hazard that  the snow flurries. Schools stayed open, however, and the weather once again warmed up by the end of the week.

The City of Rome revealed the details on the deal it made with a developer for the land across from West Rome High School, which was  approved for development of the Gala Shopping Center. The City of Rome traded the property for a five-acre tract adjacent to and north of West Rome, extending to the railroad tracks; in addition, they paid the city $27,000. Thus, the deal was finalized that would eventually bring Big K and many other stores to West Rome and turn it into a major retail engine in Rome throughout the last part of the 1960s and the 1970s. (In fact, West Rome dominated Rome's retail sales until the mid-1970s, when Riverbend Mall opened across from East Rome High School.)

Moonshiners were still doing a lot of business in Rome in early 1963, but the State Revenue Department was doing their best to shut it down. On Wednesday, the "revenooers" raided three thousand-gallon stills in Rome's Silver Creek area, and were searching for other stills as they launched a raid on Rome's moonshiners.

The proposed "blue law" bill that would require most merchants to close on Sunday passed the Georgia Senate this week in 1963, but it was stymied in the house as businessmen and residents across the state let their representatives know that they did not like the idea.

In a sign that friendship was stronger than inter-school rivalries, Chieftain band director Clyde Roberson and members of the West Rome marching band showed up to share good wishes with the East Rome Gladiator Marching Band, which was departing for Tampa, Florida, to participate in a parade there. The Chieftain band played some of East Rome's favorite numbers then sent them on their way with a hearty "Go Gladiators!" as the busses pulled out. It was a classy move for Mr. Roberson and the band that was much appreciated by East Rome.

Ellen Marie Payne was named West Rome High School's STAR Student this week in 1963; she chose Mrs. Elliott Evans as her STAR Teacher.

The West Rome Band launched the first in a series of three concerts on on February 15th at the City Auditorium. The band performed nine songs in the concert, ending with a jazz arrangement of "Dixie" (remember, this was the 1960s, and Dixie was a common song at this time--some of you may remember that the Georgia Department of Education would tag a brief credit clip accompanied by "Dixie" on the end of all educational film reels they sent out on loan to schools in the state).

West Rome played Cave Spring on Friday, February 15th. It was a great night for Cave Spring and a not-so-great night for the Chieftains: the boys lost 44-40, and the girls lost 46-23.

Piggly Wiggly offered grapefruit for a nickel each, center cut pork chops for 49¢ a pound, and Maxwell House Coffee for 49¢ a pound. Kroger was running a special on smoked picnic hams at 29¢ a pound, baking potatoes for a nickel a pound, and the ever-popular Chef BoyArDee Beefaroni for a quarter a can. Big Apple offered medium eggs for 43¢ a dozen, round steak for 89¢ a pound, and sliced American cheese for 39¢ a pound. A&P topped that with sirloin steak for 89¢ a pound--and for those with lower food budgets, they had Libby's potted meat for a dime a can. Couch's counted with stew beef for 33¢ a pound, pork roast for 39¢ a pound, and bananas for a dime a pound.

Rome Automobile Company began an aggressive advertising campaign for the Volkswagen Beetle in early 1963, including large ads in the Rome News-Tribune; the ads were mostly amusing and slightly self-deprecating, establishing Volkswagen as a modest, affordable alternative to the American cars that were so common.

The DeSoto Theater began the week with Tony Curtis's Forty Pounds of Trouble, while the First Avenue Theater was showing White Slave Ship and the West Rome Drive-In offered The Horizontal Lieutenant. The weekend brought Pat Boone's Mardi Gras to the DeSoto Theater, Panic in Year Zero to the First Avenue Theater, and a double-feature of Loss of Innocence and Carthage in Flames to the West Rome Drive-In.

Paul and Paula continued to dominate the Top Ten music charts as "Hey Paula" held on to first place for another week. The rest of the Top Ten included "Wal Right In" by The Rooftop Sings (#2), "Walk Like a Man" by the Four Season (#3), "Ruby Baby" by Dion (#4), "Rhythm of the Rain" by the Cascades (#5), "From a Jack to a King" by Ned Miller (#6), "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" by Bobby Vee (#7), "You Really Got a Hold on Me" by the Miracles (#8), "Loop De Loop" by Johnny Thunder (#9), and "Up on the Roof" by The Drifters (#10). And here in the US, a single called "Please Please Me" was released by a minor R&B label, Vee-Jay records, this week in 1963. Alas, it didn't chart at all, and it would be almost another year before the Beatles would become superstars in America. This same week, the Beatles were busy in the studio recording the other songs for their "Please Please Me" album.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Fifty Years Ago This Week - 2/4/63 to 2/10/63

Rome's cold snap appeared to be ending, with temperatures creeping into the 50s for the first week of February. While Rome schools remained open, the sudden warming forced Gordon County and other North Georgia systems to close their schools, as the thawing ice and frozen dirt roads turned into swampy quagmires that school bus drivers could not safely maneuver. Floyd County schools scattered sand and gravel on some of their muddier road to avoid having to close schools for the same reason. (Rome City Schools had no such problems, since almost all roads in the city were paved by 1963.) However, winter wasn't ready to say goodbye to Rome quite yet… but you'll hear more about that NEXT week...

Rome and Floyd County business groups were in an uproar about a proposed state plan for mandatory Sunday closing of most businesses; Senator Battle Hall of Floyd County said that he doubted it would pass (and thankfully, it didn't!).

Someone was setting grass fires across Rome in February 1963, including a location at 214 Burnett Ferry Road near Conn Street in West Rome. Oil and gasoline were found at the sites, but there was no sign of the arsonist.

Highwaymen in 1963? It sounded like it when a West Rome man reported that he was robbed of $4,000.00 on his way to Atlanta. He said that two men stopped him on US 41 near West Paces Ferry Road and hit him with a "judo blow to the right side of the neck" (does that move really work anywhere other than on television or in movies?) and stole $2000 in small bills and 2 $1000 bills. (Did you even know that they MADE $1000 bills? The government quit printing them in 1945, but they remained in circulation and in use until 1969; the $5000 and the $10,000 bills were also officially in use until that year, although I don't know that there were many people in Rome who carried either one!)

In spite of objections by the Rome City School System, the City Commission approved the sale of land across from West Rome High School for what would become Gala Shopping Center.

A committee studying the operations of the Rome City School Systems took a look at 4 1/2 year old West Rome High School as part of its overall review, commending the school for its student involvement, for its state of the art construction (well, state of the art for the time period--although I'm sure many of us even then were wondering why air conditioning wasn't a part of the plan!), the quality of its teaching aids, and its classroom equipment (although they did feel that more blackboard space, more opaque projectors, and more tape recorders were needed, particularly for the foreign language program).

The committee suggested that the school use its lunch program as a way to teach students proper nutrition and proper dining etiquette; their only criticism was the fact that only about 65% of West Rome's students purchased a school lunch each day, versus a 75% purchase rate at East Rome (even in our lunch programs, we were apparently competitors!). The committee felt that the main problem was the length of time that students had to spend in line. They also suggested that the schools consider removing their vending machines--a suggestion that many of us were glad to see ignored by the school administration. The committee was very complimentary of the school newspaper, The Drumbeat, as well as the Student Council, but saw a few deficiencies in the library, where the reference material was not sufficient for a school of West Rome's size.

A twenty-piece dance band made up of West Rome High School band students played for Battey State Hospital patients on February 6th; this was the band's third concert at Battey in two years--and they were the only high school group invited to perform there!

The 1963 Miss Rome Pageant was shaping up as the biggest in the history of the beauty contest; the committee was accepting entries for the big event. The Miss Rome would go on to compete in the Miss Georgia Pageant, and the winner of that contest would advance to the Miss America competition in Atlantic City.

West Rome played its arch-rival East Rome in basketball on Thursday, February 7th, in a  game held at the Memorial Gym because neither school's gymnasium would be large enough for the crowd.  Over a thousand people attended the game, where they saw Emma Bray lead the Lady Chieftains to a 34-33 victory over East Rome, and the boys team followed suit with a 69-52 victory, led by the strong play of Wesley Jekins, Van Gray, and Buddy Copeland.

East Rome's wrestlers fell to West Rome 34-23 on February 4th as West Rome's mat men  won eight of the thirteen matches. Mike Murphy, Doug De Deurwarder, Bill Cameron, Richard Edwards, Jim Lamb, Jerry Coalson, Lonnie Phillips, and Larry Lippencott all won matches for the Chiefs.

West Rome basketball teams played Calhoun on Friday, February 8th, with the boys winning 68-56, while the girls lost in in a 45-30 rout.

TV prices began to come down in early 1963: Sears was advertising a 23" black-and-white console TV for only $168, while the price of a portable 19" black and white TV dropped to $118. (The inflation factor, if you're trying to calculate what that would be in today's dollars, is $7.52, so the $168 TV in 1963 dollars would equal $1263.16 today, while the $118 portable would equal $887.22 in today's dollars… not that much of a bargain after all, huh?)

Nylon, rayon, polyester, and other synthetic fibers were making their move into clothing stores in 1963; news reports indicated that for the first time, cotton sales were declining as manufacturers began moving to synthetics. (Ironically, in the very same edition of the Rome News Tribune, Miller Brothers was advertising cotton madras skirts for $6 each, while they were advertising polyester dresses for $3.99 each!)

Rome Lincoln-Mercury was pushing the struggling Mercury Meteor in February 1963, and with good reason--sales for the  entry-level Mercury had been dismal, and car dealers were trying to push the car with sales incentives and lower prices. Alas, the push achieved nothing, and the car was discontinued later in 1963, just two years after its debut.

Piggly Wiggly was advertising its fresh whole fryers for 29¢ a pound, 10 pounds of flour for 99¢, and a 16-ounce can of salmon for 59¢. Kroger had leg o' lamb for 59¢ a pound, and fatback for 19¢ a pound (when was the last time you saw anyone advertising fatback at any price?). A&P had whole chicken breasts for 39¢ a pound, cheddar cheese for 45¢ a pound, and then-trendy instant coffee for 99¢ for a 10-ounce container. Big Apple offered Porterhouse steak  for 99¢ a pound,  squash for a dime a pound, and canned biscuits for a nickel per 10-biscuit can. And West Rome favorite Couch's Grocery had sirloin stark for 69¢ a pound, ice milk (for those of us who couldn't afford ice cream!) for 39¢ a half-gallon, and onions for 6¢ a pound.

The DeSoto Theater turned to the dark side as they screened Sodom and Gomorrah for the first part of the week; The First Avenue Theatre ran Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Terror with Vincent Price and Peter Lorre, while the West Rome Drive-In was showing The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Only Two Can Play (which, according to the ad, starred "Peter Seller." Apparently he wasn't famous enough in 1963 for the paper to spell his name correctly!) The weekend brought The Day Mars Invaded Earth and Beauty and the Beast to the DeSoto, A Child Is Waiting (with Burt Lancaster and Judy Garland) to the First Avenue, and The Three Stooges in Orbit and Belle Sommers to the West Rome Drive-In.

"Hey Paula" by Paul and Paula was the number one song this week in 1963. The rest of the Top Ten included "Walk Right In" but he Rooftop Singers (#2); :The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" by Bobby Vee (#3); "Loop de Loop" by Johnny Thunder (#4); "Up on the Roof" by The Drifters (#5); "Walk Like a Man" by the Four Seasons (#6); "Ruby Baby" by Dion (#7); "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" by the Miracles (#8); "Rhythm of the Rain" by The Cascades (#9); and "Go Away Little Girl" by Steve Lawrence (#10). And of course, you could buy those singles at Redford's in West End Shopping Center, at Murphy's on Broad Street, or at the Record Shop on Broad Street.

Fifty Years Ago This Week in West Rome - 1/28/63 to 2/3/63

Rome's cold winter continued to chill out in Northwest Georgia: the week began with a low of 8 degrees on Monday morning, January 28th. The below-freezing temperatures hung around through Wednesday morning, which led to a few hours of freezing rain problems on January 30th until slowly rising temperatures caused the freezing rain to begin melting, eliminating the threat of a  major ice storm. By the end of the week, however, temperatures soared to 70 degrees.

Rome area burglars continued to focus on business safes, stealing the large safe from Yarbrough Grocery in Armuchee and the Ideal Service Station in Cave Spring, leading one to wonder if the word "safe" was a misnomer.

We all read his work in American literature classes, but we forget that he was still very much with us until this week fifty years ago: Robert Frost passed away at the age of 88 on January 29th; his miles long since travelled, it was finally time for his eternal sleep. Frost, along with Carl Sandburg, had been praised as an eloquent poet of the common man, writing about real-world subjects many of us were likely to experience. A half-century after his passing, his poetry still seems fresh and contemporary.

James Meredith ended weeks of speculation by confirming his intention to return to the University of Mississippi for the spring 1963 semester. (James Meredith was the first black man admitted to the University of Mississippi in a time when segregation was the norm; his bold pursuit of equal rights in education was a strong influence on the many Southern school systems' decision to move away from segregated schools, paving the way for the integration of West Rome and East Rome and expanding educational opportunities for all people regardless of race.)

Governor Sanders confirmed his interest in establishing Battey State Hospital as the official Georgia center for cancer care; alas, those plans never came to pass (but just think how it might have changed Rome's economy over the years!).

The Rome City Commission continued to study the proposal that they sell a tract of land near West Rome High School for construction of a $1.7 million shopping center--and the Rome City Board of Education continued to express its strong opposition, pointing out that they were already building West End Elementary on the other side of Alabama Road from West Rome High, and the land on the other side of Redmond Circle would be perfect for a planned junior high school.

West Rome band director Clyde Roberson announced that the Chieftain Band would hold three concerts on February 18th, March 8th, and March 15th  to raise enough money for the band to participate in the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC.

West Rome's boys lost to Cedartown 76-68 on February 1st, but they soundly defeated Coosa the next night 55-40. The girls also lost to Cedartown on February 1st by a score of 73-40 (apparently Cedartown had a great basketball program in 1963!), but they too defeated Coosa 57-40.

West Rome's JV boys defeated Armuchee 43-18 in the opening night of the Floyd County Junior Varsity Basketball Tournament on January 28th. Donnie Hill was then top scorer with 10 points.

West Rome's wrestlers fell to the Brainerd High team 41-13 (were we really playing teams from the Chattanooga area?).

Kroger offered large boxes of Fab detergent for 25¢ each this week in 1963, while cans of yellow corn were a dime each, fruit cocktail 20¢ each, smoked hams were 29¢ a pound, and chicken breast were 49¢ a pound. Piggly Wiggly competed with boxes of Cheer for a quarter each, chuck roast for 39¢ a pound, bananas for 12¢ a pound, and whole barbecue chickens for 89¢ in their deli. Big Apple had ice cream for 49¢ a half-gallon, bacon for 45¢ a pound, and coffee for 59¢ a pound.

Virtually every retailer in the Rome area participated in the Rome Dollar Days sale on February 1st and 2nd; with each retailer pretty much doing his own thing nowadays, we forget that the retail community at one time worked in tandem to create special events like this back on a regular basis.

The DeSoto Theater offered Gigot with Jackie Gleason during the week, followed by a special double feature of North by Northwest (with Cary Grant) and Hound Dog Man (with Fabian) on February 1st and 2nd. The First Avenue Theater screened The Premature Burial during the week, followed by a weekend showing of Young Guns of Texas with James Mitchum, while the West Rome Drive-In offered a double feature of Parrish and Splendor in the Grass during the week and a double feature of The Interns and The Underwater City on the weekend.

The Top Ten songs for this week in 1963 included "Walk Right In" by the Rooftop Singers, which held on to #1 for a second week, followed by "Hey Paula" by Paul and Paula (#2), "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" by Bobby Vee (#3), "Go Away LIttle Girl" by Steve Lawrence (#4), "Loop de Loop" by Johnny Thunder (#5), "It's Up To You" by Rick Nelson (#6), "Up on the Roof" by the Drifters (#7), "Tell Him" by The Exciters (#8), "Two Lovers" by Mary Wells (#9), and "My Dad" by Paul Petersen (#10).